27 September 2012, 18:03

Albinism intimidation not just in Tanzania: one man’s nightmare

Albinism intimidation not just in Tanzania: one man’s nightmare

Worry, endless fear and lingering paranoia – these are the emotions we expect to feel when watching a horror flick. Though thousands of innocent lives are constantly stigmatized, all because of their complexion, they are people with albinism. Amadou Tidiane Diallo, a citizen of the Republic of Guinea in West Africa, knows from experience that death is not a far cry away from reality. He suffers from albinism and this is his story from the attacks to acceptance.

Diallo was assaulted in 1994 in his native country Guinea. One day while walking to his home in Conakry, the country’s capital, trouble arose. He was solicited by two unfamiliar individuals in a military vehicle. They drove close to him, stopped and got out of their vehicle, surrounding Diallo.

“I barely can remember the sentence: This is the meat we were looking for. We’ve now got it, said in a local dialect,” explained Diallo, who noticed them speaking in “Mandingo”, to the Voice of Russia. But Guinea is not the only mischievous player, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, South Africa and so many other territories are being accused of harming or killing their own people according to a report released in September 2012, from Under the Same Sun.

In the end, he supposed that he was knocked down with a cutting object as he calls it. This object may have been a machete, a common tool among hunters in search of Africans with this condition. Sadly, now he only remembers when he got out of a coma a couple weeks later at the hospital. After some years, he later realized the attack was to get his body parts.

Witchdoctors in many African countries resort to using body parts of people with albinism for magical purposes, and the profit looters could make on each part is astronomical in price. In some parts of Tanzania, a documentary, Albino Killings in Africa, stated that the potential earnings reach up to 3 thousand dollars.

“There is a profound ignorance about albinism in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa. This ignorance is surrounded by harmful myths filled with misinformation,” exclaimed Don Sawatzky, Director of Operations for Under The Same Sun Canada, to the Voice of Russia. “Under the Same Sun views these attacks as a profound form of discrimination where a person’s life is dehumanized to the point where a culture can justify horrendous acts.”

Nevertheless, this was not the only attempted abduction that Diallo experienced. Secondary school and his experiences at the University in Abidjan in Ivory Coast bring forth stark memories as he escaped two more tried kidnappings, all because of his genetic condition.

“I have undergone several ordeals and hardships due to my albinism in my native country and in Ivory Coast, a neighboring country where I grew up. To be born with a white skin while both your parents are black in Africa where superstition takes an important place in daily life, is really a big issue”, Diallo pointed out, which drove him to seek asylum in Norway in 2008, only to be rejected.

Way before these tragedies, he discovered that he was unique ever since his first day at school in 1982, in the village where he grew up in Ivory Coast. “People were staring at me in a way that I realized, even as a child at that time, that something mattered with my appearance, that there was something wrong with my appearance. And gradually I started facing mockeries from my school mates and teachers and inhabitants of the village. They used some derogatory nicknames to call me instead of using my real name,” recalled Diallo.

And, although Diallo inherited albinism from his parents, they are not white in color, he is the only one in his family who has to live with this genetic trait. Since his father’s passing in 2000, his relationship with other family members has deteriorated.

“As for my mother our relations got worse and worse since my father’s death. Since 2000, I noticed that my mother did not love me because of my albinism,” told Diallo who remembers his father giving him unconditional love and acceptance. This intolerance is all too prevalent in zones where albinism is high, which leaves children feeling unwanted and lonely.

“It is far more common for people to believe albinos are 'otherworldly' in some way -- that they are ghost-people who are not human. When an albino baby is born, many believe the family is being punished in some way for something they (or usually the woman) did previously,” expressed Diane Vogel Raful, a Member of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Asante Mariamu and radio producer in Washington DC.

In the here and now, Diallo lives a safer more grounded life in Vancouver, Canada -- thanks to the Lord and the Canadian NGO Under the Same Sun founded by Peter Ash. “Peter Ash and his brother Paul Ash were the people who helped me against all odds. I now work for Under The Same Sun here in Canada. I can say that my life is now safe thanks to Peter Ash and his brother Paul Ash both with albinism,” said Diallo who states he doesn’t regret leaving his country but hopes to return one day when it has become a much safer environment.

Besides the constant need to be leery of the sun in order to protect their skin, people with albinism also have issues with their eyes, where their vision is partly impaired or worse off than that, images are distorted to the point where school becomes a chore in itself. Albinism is not all physical hardship. Diallo is confident Africa will need to alter their entire mindset about the condition. Then and only then will people progress to help make a brighter tomorrow.

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